It was Rodrick Fisher’s 19th birthday when all the emotions finally hit home for his adopted father, Adam Fisher.
Rodrick, a standout receiver for East Valley High School in Spokane, found out on that December day he’d been cleared by the Washington State University compliance office, making him eligible for a scholarship to go WSU.
That meant Fisher – a 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver with good speed who was part of WSU’s 2018 recruiting class – could start school in January and begin practicing immediately.
It was no small deal to Rodrick, who had been homeless as a teenager, and Adam, the East Valley football coach who had adopted him after he’d broken down in his office, admitting he had nowhere else to go.
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Homelessness was only half of Rodrick’s story. Rodrick still had to get his academics sorted out before colleges would even look at him. Getting the go-ahead from WSU was the payoff for years of hard work.
“We made it,” Adam said. “To get to where we are today is just incredible. It was a huge joy, huge relief.”
Once Rodrick’s home life stabilized – he eventually wound up being adopted by the Fishers, legally changing his name from Jackson – he needed to tackle the academic issues. At East Valley, he had once dropped out entirely and had, as Eastern Washington assistant coach Ryan Sawyer said, a transcript that the worst he had ever seen for a potential recruit.
“When he told me that, then I thought I’m going to do everything in our power to buck that,” Adam said. “To hear that from a recruiter, a few guys got scared away because they didn’t think it would get done. But it can be done.”
Rodrick had talent – he’s been clocked at a 4.51 40-yard-dash – but how was he ever going to be eligible? He realized the work that needed to be done and admitted it felt daunting.
“It seems impossible at first, and it seems hard,” Rodrick told KXLY-TV in Spokane in October 2016. “But you just have to gradually keep working to what you know is right.”
Rodrick needed to take five summer school classes the last two years and go an extra semester at East Valley to secure the core class credits he needed. All the while, Adam gave him the fatherly nudge he needed.
“This is the bed that was made for you, you have to deal with it,” Adam said. “No credits his sophomore year, he failed half his freshman year. ...
“There were times we had to have tough conversations,” Adam added. “ ‘You told me what you wanted to do, I had to show you how to get there and academically how to get it done.’ ”
Once eligible to play high school football, he shined. He led East Valley with 49 receptions for 805 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He was named an Army All-American Bowl in his final high school season. He was also earned News Tribune’s Northwest Nuggets and Western 100 honors.
Adam thinks his attributes will translate to the college game fairly smoothly.
“I think his best years are in front of him,” Adam said. “Some kids coming out of high school have very limited room for growth, they’ve tapped their potential. Rodrick is untapped.”
One of the most impressive statistics had nothing to do with football. Rodrick had raised his GPA to 3.3 and earned his high school diploma.
“It’s really rewarding,” Rodrick said to KXLY of his academic improvement. “It makes me feel like I wasn’t stupid. I can actually apply myself to see what kind of talent I have in my brain instead of my arms and legs.”
Washington State University’s 2018 recruiting class
Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei, DL, 6-3, 260, Gold Coast, Australia (Riverside CC)
Cade Beresford, OL, 6-7, 270, Woodinville, Wash.
Max Borgi, RB, 5-10, 195, Arvada, Colo. (Pomona )
Kendrick Catis, LB, 6-1, 235, Pompano Beach, Fla. (Highland CC)
Cammon Cooper, QB, 6-4, 210, Lehi, Utah
Ahmir Crowder, DL, 6-3, 280, Los Angeles, Calif. (Creshaw)
Halid Djibril, DB, 6-0, 180, Los Angeles, Calif. (Cathedral)
Rodrick Fisher, WR, 6-2, 205, Spokane, Wash. (Spokane Valley)
Keenan Forbes, OL, 6-4, 335, Miami, Fla. (Coffeyville CC)
Brandon Gray, WR, 6-5, 180, Detroit, Mich. (Cass Tech)
Myles Green-Richards, DB, 5-11, 180, Eugene , Ore. (Churchill)
Brennan Jackson, DL, 6-4, 240, Temecula, Calif. (Great Oak)
Calvin Jackson Jr., WR, 5-11, 175, Pompano Beach, Fla. (Independence CC)
Drue Jackson, WR, 6-1, 190, Sachse, Texas
Jarrett Kingston, OL, 6-5, 260, Anderson, Calif.
Jonathan Lolohea, DL, 6-3, 310, Lahaina , Hawaii (Copiah-Lincoln CC)
Blake McDonald, DB, 6-5, 315, Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley)
D'angelo McKenzie, DB, 5-11, 185, San Jose, Calif. (Valley Christian)
Patrick Nunn, ATH, 6-3, 206, San Mateo, Calif. (Junipero Serra)
Syr Riley, OL, 6-4, 323, Los Angeles, Calif. (Pacific Palisades)
Tyrese Ross, DB, 6-0, 180, Jacksonville, Fla. (Westlake)
R.J. Stone, LB, 6-4, 215, San Jose, Calif. (Valley Christian)
Kedron Williams, LB, 6-1, 205, Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco)
Kassidy Woods, WR, 6-3, 200, Addison, Texas (Greenhill School)